Low-cost bug repellents that do the job

April 25, 2012 4:22:03 PM PDT
All our recent spring rainfall has many of us battling those pesky mosquitoes. But if you are looking for any relief from Harris County, you are going to have to wait because the county does not spray until they have a confirmed case of West Nile virus. That's why we looked for some affordable options to keep mosquitoes away.

What really works when it comes to protecting you and your family? With so many gadgets on the market, you don't want to waste your money on junk. We also tested some home remedies that cost a fraction of the price of bug spray to see if they're worth it.

Kingwood may be called the "Livable Forest," but recent Michigan transplant Kara Bucher says that's only if you are willing to live with mosquitoes.

"The mosquitoes down here in Texas produce giant-size welts," Bucher said.

And she really wants to protect her two little ones.

Her sister Kristin Hensler also just moved, so we asked the family to test out a variety of mosquito repellents at dusk in this unscientific test we conducted. Some of the repellents are home remedies.

First up is using dryer sheets. This is an old wives' tale that some gardeners swear by. Hensler liberally rubs the fabric softener sheet over her exposed skin and dryer sheet over clothes.

Next, we test the insect repellant SuperBand, found at the drug store for $3.99. Bucher applies Avon's Skin So Soft on her daughter; some moms swear by it.

And for her son, we try another home remedy. For this recipe, we add one teaspoon of vanilla extract per cup of water into a spray bottle then shake it up.

And finally, we test the OFF! Clip-On, a battery-operated, fan-circulated repellent for $9.99. You simply clip it on near your waist line.

We leave the family to play around for a bit. But earlier in the day, we dropped by the Harris County Mosquito Control Division to get their thoughts on our home remedies and gadgets.

"I'd like to go with the sure thing and these are the things that have been tested over time," Dr. Rudy Bueno said.

Dr. Bueno says he prefers consumers stick to the list of repellents the CDC recommends. While some home remedies may work, they may not protect from the West Nile virus.

Back in Kingwood after 30 minutes of play, Hensler -- who tested the dryer sheets -- says she was not bothered by the mosquitoes. Bucher inspects her kids and doesn't find one bite. But Bucher, who tested the SuperBand, says mosquitoes landed a few inches from the device.

As far as the OFF! Clip-On we tested, it was OK deterring mosquitoes near the pocket to which it was attached, but we still found them swarming around us so it gets a thumbs down.

The bottom line is the two gadgets did not work and you are better off buying bug repellent with the chemical DEET.

The dryer sheet and vanilla extract worked on our testers, and that was a huge money saver because each application cost pennies. However, they may not be for everyone. Dr. Bueno says it all depends because some people may perspire more and give off a scent.

Perfume or colognes may attract the bugs and some experts believe drinking alcohol makes your skin give off a chemical that attracts mosquitoes.


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